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IRONMAN - The Journey of one Woman

My name is Mel, l am a single Mum of three amazing young men, a personal trainer and l am an Ironman. Actually l am a SEVEN x Ironman, yes l am!!! On the 11th of November 2017 l completed my seventh Ironman from seven starts in a little over 3.5 years, something l now realise is pretty damn great. I am also a proud ambassador of FOHER Co.

IRONMAN Mel at her first Noosa Triathlon with her boys

IMAGE: Mel with her three boys at her first ever Noosa Triathlon where she competed in a team.

The sport of triathlon is something I found by mistake! It’s not a sport l had experience in, I grew up riding horses and rowing boats!! I had no idea how to swim prior to deciding to take this path, which really should have been a red flag but I chose to ignore it.

My journey started in November 2012 when l raced the Noosa Triathlon as part of a team. I went on this adventure with some friends who had invited me on their family holiday to be part of their team. I was fortunate to share this experience with my children and my mum. My job that day was to go as fast as l could on the bike course without falling off my trusty road bike (yes no time trial bike for me at this point). So l did go as fast as l could and l didn’t fall off and it was the most fun l had experienced in years. In fact I did declare that was the best thing l had ever done (except having my children of course!). So the spark was lit and l started to dream that perhaps l could actually do a triathlon on my own, that is all three sports forgetting there was a problem of not being capable of swimming. I signed up as soon as entries opened to complete Noosa 2013 all by myself.

Something strange happened to me between Noosa 2012 and Noosa 2013. I spectated at Ironman Melbourne in March of 2013 and declared whilst watching athletes finish that l was going to have a crack at that! Crazy, ridiculous and stupid to say the least from someone with zero idea of what it would take to actually do this. So it began, the journey that not only changed my life but saved it, pulling me from the adversity of a marriage breakdown and gave me drive, direction, purpose and hope.IRONMAN Mel first individual triathlon at Noosa in 2015

IMAGE: Mel competing as an individual at Noosa Triathlon.

Following shortly after this declaration, l put my money where my mouth was and l signed up for Ironman Melbourne 2014. For a short time l pondered on how l would make this happen, sure l had a background in the fitness industry but this was a whole new ball game. I honestly had no idea how to train for an Ironman and being a single mum l couldn't afford nor did I know where to find a coach, so l wrote my own program. Around this time l met a guy who took me for a few rides and a few dinners and then gave me the best advice anyone could have - join a triathlon club. Here began the formation of some of the greatest friendships of my life.

In 2013 as planned, I went back and raced in Noosa as an individual entrant and then a few weeks later l raced at Shepparton in my first long distance event the Ironman 70.3. Following this l raced at Challenge Melbourne early in 2014 again another 70.3 distance event which happened to be the debut of this race in Melbourne.

IRONMAN Mel completing Challenge Shepparton in 2015

IMAGE: Mel racing at Challenge Shepparton.

From these events l rolled on into my first full Ironman race, Ironman Melbourne 2014. Here in front of thousands of new best friends, my family and a home crowd of friends l proved that the impossible is really possible. I knew if l could make it through the swim l could make it to the finish line and l did make it through the swim just with eight minutes to cut off (l was looking over my shoulder hoping not to be the one that was pulled from the water).

The journey was never going to finish there, the storybook still had many more pages to fill (and it still does) however it would take a full year before l would take on another full 140.6 Ironman race. In the meantime l planned my season to build towards Ironman Melbourne 2015. I signed up to race in Noosa for the third time (second time as an individual) in 2014 and Challenge Shepparton following Noosa and then once again Challenge Melbourne early in 2015. It was at the Noosa tri in 2015 when wandering through the expo all on my own l met the two most beautiful and kind hearted woman. Of course it was the lovely Kylie and Hannah, it was here a friendship started and a love for FOHER.

So on the 22nd of March 2015 it was time once more to race Ironman Melbourne. This time I had the great honour of representing women in the sport and was a featured athlete for Ironman TV which was later broadcast on 7mate and on Foxtel worldwide. This was such an amazing experience and the best part was that l could share this with my family.

Shortly after finishing my second Ironman Melbourne l registered for my third in my hometown set for March 2016, but l felt like something was missing. Maybe the Ironman blues had hit? With this realisation l decided to pull myself together, raise the bar and give myself the goal of backing up Melbourne with Ironman Cairns 2015. So l did this with 11 weeks in between races. Cairns was tough yet beautiful, the atmosphere and location was magical and the people on met on that trip were set to remain true friends to this day!!! After a very big day and at times not pretty a pretty day l achieved the impossible for the third time.

IRONMAN Mel completing IRONMAN Cairns

IMAGE: Mel completed her third IRONMAN at Cairns in 2015.

From here l rolled onto the Ironman Sunshine Coast 70.3 (another amazing trip shared with friends) and a further roll into Noosa 2015 and then a few weeks later Challenge Shepparton 2015. After this l decided it was time for a little break, surprise surprise l had raced too much and had to work on some injury niggles and some muscle imbalances before focusing on a new goal of Ironman Australia (Port Macquarie). Sadly Melbourne Ironman had been cancelled and l had to make the choice to withdraw my entry or transfer to another race, of course l chose the transfer which would see me race in a new destination.

On May 1st 2016, l once again toed the starting line of what was set to be my fourth Ironman finish. I had the honour once more of representing women in triathlon, being featured in my local paper the herald sun and on the Ironman website as well as being a guest speaker at the athlete welcome dinner. The location of this race was spectacular, the swim by far my favourite Ironman swim. It saw me cut over 30 minutes of my best Ironman swim to date. To be honest the race could have ended there for finally l had not only broken the two hour swim barrier and was only four minutes over the 90 minute mark. If that isn’t proof that dreams can come true nothing is.

From here l made the decision to race my fifth Ironman - Ironman Western Australia in December of 2016. This is by far the most special to me next to my first finish. I was able to share this experience with my three sons, my parents and some close friends. We made this a destination holiday race, we all enjoyed exploring the beauty of Busselton and the surrounds. I had such a great day out. My fastest finish time shared with the most important people in my life.IRONMAN Mel at IRONMAN Western Australia

IMAGE: IRONMAN number five in Western Australia.

Where to from here? Do l stop at five? No of course not!!

2017 saw me return to Cairns in June again with amazing friends and complete Ironman six. Following this l decided to look further into the horizon and set my sights on racing Ironman Malaysia in November of 2017.

It was my first time racing overseas and my first time racing without my family and closest friends for support (a daunting thing but definitely an experience that made me grow and find some of my own strength without the reassurance of others). The location was breathtakingly beautiful and the local people lovely. The race itself was hot, hot, hot!! 35 degrees and close to 100% humidity. A non-wetsuit Ironman swim which was of course new to me yet l thoroughly enjoyed it. The bike posed challenges with two flats in course and only one spare tube needless to say l spent additional time in the sun that day. It’s probably the first time l actually wondered if l would make it to the finish but something kept me going and l did indeed make it to claim my SEVENTH full Ironman finish.IRONMAN Mel completing IRONMAN Malaysia

IMAGE: Mel completing IRONMAN Malaysia in 2017.

Throughout this journey l have learnt so much about myself, I love the adventure it has bought to my life. I love the sense of achievement that completing a full-distance race has given me. But the best thing that has come from this is the life lessons l have passed onto my three children. l have shown them that yes things can be tough, sometimes the odds are against you, sometimes things don't go to plan, sometimes you may even fail. But you pick yourself up, you work hard, you dream big and you never give up on that dream until you make it your reality.

The other great thing that has come from my journey is being able to inspire, empower and encourage other women not only in sport but in life. If I can help one woman or girl to step outside of their comfort zone and take a leap of faith in order to achieve their personal goal, then l will be very happy. To show other women that this is possible is a privilege.

I am taking some time now to give my mind and body some recovery, l plan to race my eighth Ironman at Busselton later this year. I am unsure if there will be anything before that, l guess you never know!!

IMAGE BELOW: Mel with her amazing support team, her three boys and parents.

IRONMAN Mel and her amazing support crew

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